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The Moronic Inferno and Other Visits to America

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  631 Ratings  ·  37 Reviews
A collection of essays on America by the author of London Fields, Money and Yellow Dog.

At the age of ten, when Martin Amis spent a year in Princeton, New Jersey, he was excited and frightened by America. As an adult he has approached that confusing country from many arresting angles, and interviewed its literati, filmmakers, thinkers, opinion makers, leaders and crackpots
Paperback, 208 pages
Published April 12th 1991 by Penguin Books (first published 1986)
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Anthony Vacca
Aug 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
God, is Martin Amis's journalism good. In this first non-fiction collection (if we do as an embarrassed Martin would like and forget about Invasion of the Space Invaders: I read it and thought it was adorable) Amis tackles, as Saul Bellow deemed it, the Moronic Inferno, a.ka. The United States of America. In a brief introduction, our author makes no claim for the essays that follow standing as any real uniform say on the U.S., but instead suggests that the reader favors the writings as brief sta ...more
MJ Nicholls
Mar 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
A slim and sedulous selection of Marty's early-80s US travels. His status as an author and critic has grown considerably since 1986, so this collection lacks any relevance or substance, contemporary-wards, but there are good pieces. Bellow, Updike, Roth, Mailer, Vonnegut, Capote, Heller. They're all here. (And all dead). *

Marty's non-fiction output is rather thin on the ground. Apart from the tremendous collection The War Against Cliché we could use more articles and opinions from Britain's more
Jesús Santana
El novelista británico Martin Amis decidió hacer una especie de retrato de la sociedad norteamericana entre mediados y finales de la década de los ‘70 y ‘80 con una cantidad de crónicas periodísticas para diferentes revistas entre las que se encontraban “Vanity Fair”, “The Observer” y “London Review of Books” entre otras, con una muy variopinta selección de personajes públicos y de hechos de considerable relevancia dentro de la Norteamérica de esos tiempos. Siendo realmente honesto es mi primer ...more
Read this before delving into the works of post-Vietnam American literature. Bellow survives, and the essays of Vidal, but the rest (Vonnegut, Mailer, Heller, others) is thin gruel indeed.

For me the primo, top shelf, take no prisoners essays were not the essays on US authors—rather, they were the essay on Playboy and the essay on Evangelicals. And these alone were worth the price. Amis’ witty and careful dismantling of the Hefner era Playboy empire is cathartic and yet gives way to foreboding i
Apr 03, 2013 rated it liked it

I was irritated by the title until I realized he was quoting Saul Bellow...
May 28, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: essays
Although all the essays here are on American subjects, they were initially written for readers of newspapers like The Observer and The Sunday Telegraph , and thus for a British audience. In that context, one would expect the essays to reflect some cultural bias; indeed, insofar as Amis, a British writer, was writing for a British reader, a certain amount of cultural bias would be appropriate. However, as most of the subjects Amis writes about depict some of the less flattering aspects of Amer ...more
Lukasz Pruski
Mar 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
"[...] the time has come for serious (i.e. talented) writers to be serious, without losing lyricism or laughter. 'No more novels about adolescence, career problems, sexual adventure, wounded ethnicity.' Why not address 'the mysterious circumstance of being', and say what it's like to be alive at this time, on this planet?"

The quoted passage comes from the short essay Saul Bellow in Chicago, one of the many great pieces in Martin Amis' fabulous collection The Moronic Inferno and Other Visits to A
Shane Eide
Apr 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing

America is the subject of this collection of essays by the novelist, Martin Amis. Oscillating between warm affection and perfectly timed quips, Amis brings us close (or close enough to say something amusing) to the worlds of Hugh Hefner, Brian De Palma, Gore Vidal and Gloria Steinem.

Hefner gets off easy, being a relatively easy target already, as Amis says after hearing what an average day in the old guy’s life is like, ‘That’s four movie’s a day.’ Norman Mailer’s career, o
Jan 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
A collection of late 1970s to mid-1980s essays and book reviews about Americans and American life written for a predominantly British audience, Amis here fixes his eye on the more outsized, vulgar, self-mythologizing slice of American life in which money, fame, power, persona, and reputation (and the desperate struggle to maintain these ephemeral things) intersect, and the American populations neglected by this obsession. Mostly profiles of other writers (Truman Capote, Norman Mailer, Joan Didio ...more
Sep 19, 2011 rated it liked it
Amis always produces remarkable literary criticism, and he offers some insight into many events from this time period (the late 70s and early to mid 80s), but many of his insights are now undercut by better understanding in anthropology and evolutionary biology. The book is a product of its times, and is still great reading in terms of his signature style. He takes down the right wing and a few over-rated hacks like Mailer and Roth, though he fails to do the same with similarly over-rated author ...more
East Bay J
Well, this one took a LONG time to read and that was with me skipping parts. I wanted to like this book more than I did. After all, these United States can stand with the best of them in the moron category. Amis is a good writer or, at least, I like his writing. That this is a collection of articles he wrote for various publications makes for a disjointed read and, frankly, I had little or no interest in several of his subjects. Saul Bellow? Gore Vidal? John Updike? Norman Mailer? Don't care. Th ...more
Jameson Fink
Nov 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
The title is a misnomer as this book is more than 50% reviews of books written by American authors. I much more enjoyed the essays, especially those on Hugh Hefner and his Playboy "empire" as well as Gore Vidal and Jerry Falwell.

Amis also delves into the AIDS crisis in 1985. It's a powerful, and early, call for sympathy, understanding, and action. And a rebuke of close-minded heterosexuals who see AIDS as solely a gay problem and disease. (Though Amis does engage in stereotyping gay men as hype
Al Young
Oct 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Amis is perhaps the best wordsmith on the planet. As much as I do enjoy his novels, I possibly like his nonfiction even more. Inferno is a collection of articles Amis wrote in the late 70s and 1980s for magazines and newspapers like The Guardian and The Observer. It is mostly interviews and book reviews, but Amis put it together in such a way that it fits thematically.

So, you get Amis's takes on the great writers of our time (Bellow, Vonnegut, Heller, Vidal, Capote, Mailer, Updike) and some of
Jul 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
Dated [there's a chapter called "making sense of Aids"] musings and interviews on/with America by Martin Amis, mostly republished from the Observer Magazine and Vanity Fair. It includes savagings of Hugh Hefner, William Burroughs, and Norman Mailer, who really comes off as a prize fucker. The Steven Spielberg interview is natty, too. And there's a profile of Truman Capote, whom Amis, thanks to having what we journalists like to call "access," gets to interview on his sick bed. I skipped the chap ...more
Charles Martin
Jul 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Amis is a literary curiosity, seemingly reviled and exalted in equal measure for his garrulous prose, but I found him to be utterly superb in this collection of journalistic pieces and literary critique. Here, the tenacity of his prose is, uncannily, redoubled by the tenacity of his incisive surveillance of American culture circa the 1980s. There, Amis circumnavigates a torpid ocean of surreal delights, strange fixations (or 'fixities', to mimic Martin's amenable Amis-ness) and solipsistic moral ...more
Mar 03, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: criticism, essays
Amis works best as a hired hand; his wordplay continues to prance around the margins, but his often noxious biases and tired jokes are balanced by the demands of the limited word-count. This early volume is much more enjoyable in its eclecticism, not to mention far more prescient, than Visiting Mrs. Nabokov, and page-by-page of a higher quality than The War Against Cliche. I still don't understand his success as a novelist...
Dec 04, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2008
Purchased at Barking Dog Books and Art in Marietta, Ohio, on August 11th, 2006. With tax, it came to $5.35 - original retail price in 1987 was $16.95. This is a Washington County Public Library copy.


Suggested readings: "The Killings in Atlanta", "In Hefnerland", "Double Jeopardy: Making Sense of AIDS" and "Brian De Palma: The Movie Brute" well as any and all of the author profiles (esp. Saul Bellow).
May 12, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library

An amusing, but seriously dated, look at America and American culture. Hilarious, especially if you are looking for book reviews on Vonnegut, Capote, Vidal, and Mailer. Or get a different viewpoint on Claus von Bulow (I finally get that Robin Williams joke) or Elvis. Ok, I had the same opinion of Elvis, but like I said, dated.

Nothing like a witty British writer to make American culture shallow and slimy . . . actually, pointing out the obvious shouldn't count as shocking information.
Nov 24, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The articles and stories may be from the late eighties, but Amis can write powerfully and dramatically when he wants. I remembered some of the images and arguments from the Aids article from when I first read this probably twenty years ago, which is quite a testament to his reportage. I’m picking my way through this selection, and while I started by thinking I’d read one or two articles, I’m impressed with the style enough to think I might now read them all.
Eric Cartier
Feb 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
An excellent collection of essays, reviews and articles concerning American politicians, icons, writers and filmmakers. As always, Amis dazzles with stylistic tricks, sharp wit and profound insights.

The best bit: my used copy, signed by Amis, cost three bucks!

"Why not address the mysterious circumstance of being, and say what it's like to be alive at this time, on this planet?"
Eric Hines
Sep 26, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: essays
The book isn't terrible, but Amis just isn't as smart as he thinks he is. This is more or less a young writer feeling the effects of success, and it's pretty much spoiled him already. The running assumption is that you care what he thinks because he thinks it. I don't and Amis seem unwilling or unable to do much to persuade.
Jan 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: liked
Martin not a Baudriallardian when it comes to the States. Awe, but no gee-shucks-wonder, and that critical eye comes in handy when teasing insights out of the flimsiest of essay subjects, or areas where his interest is seemingly predicated by editorial dictates as opposes authorial swagger.
Sert Sayah
Jun 01, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: own
A Brit novelist's light essays & interviews on the U.S. and its authors. Good fun to grumble at his limey judgments and tone if you like the interviewee, or share in Amis's disdain and you're looking back at the 1980's. It is very good writing.
Edward Irons
Apr 02, 2012 rated it it was ok
Very uneven. Pieces on Palm Beach and Norman Mailer are wonderful. Other times it feels like he doesn't get American phenomena like Ronald Reagan, Joan Didion. OK, not all Americans got Ronald Reagan either
Chris O'Brien
Mar 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
I picked up this book somewhere along the way, years ago, and finally broke down and read it. It's like a strange roadtrip through the early 80s by someone overly obsessed with Saul Bellow. But also amusing at times.
Angus McKeogh
Jul 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great read. If not for some of the current affair material being dated by 20 or 30 years if have given this another star. Possibly the best title in literature and the pieces about fellow authors were extremely entertaining.
Niles Hunter
Nov 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Another near hallucinatory (by todays standards) rundown of American Authors when they ruled the talk show circuits in 1960's and early 70's. Very funny, inspiring, white male, but these bitchy whites want nothing to do with each other; a pure horror and delight, thanks to Martin Amis.
Blake Nelson
Jul 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is my favorite Martin Amis book. But i am just starting EXPERIENCE which looks really good as well. I think his non-fiction is better than his fiction, but i think i am in the minority opinion on that.
Chiffchaff Birdy
May 15, 2014 rated it liked it
I found some of the articles interesting but many were dated, in that I had no real idea who the subjects were. Amis's writing is witty and well observed however.
April Sanders
Apr 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Admired by Christopher Hitchens and worthy of it.The best of the British education system in the liberal arts.
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Martin Amis is an English novelist, essayist and short story writer. His works include the novels Money, London Fields and The Information.

The Guardian writes that "all his critics have noted what Kingsley Amis [his father] complained of as a 'terrible compulsive vividness in his style... that constant demonstrating of his command of English'; and it's true that the Amis-ness of Amis will be recog
More about Martin Amis

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“America is proud of what it does to its writers, the way it breaks and bedevils them, rendering them deluded or drunken or dead by their own hands. To overpower its tender spirits makes America feel tough. Careers are generally short.” 11 likes
“Probably all writers are at some point briefly under the impression that they are in the forefront of disintegration and chaos, that they are among the first to live and work after things fall apart. ” 9 likes
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